Despite the fact that he won't play in Monday night's preseason game against the Steelers at FedEx Field, there is no doubt that second year quarterback Robert Griffin III is the new face of the Redskins franchise.
Griffin blasted onto the scene a year ago and put Washington back on the map after many years of struggle for the history-rich franchise. The multi-talented Griffin III (RG3), the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, passed for 3200 yards and rushed for another 815 as he led the Redskins back to the playoffs a year after the team finished with a 5-11 record.
Now it's hard not to think of the Redskins without picturing RG3's distinctively handsome features and dreadlock hairdo.
Washington's preseason has been dominated by news of Griffin's recovery from major knee surgery in the offseason and whether or not he'll be ready for action come Week 1.
It's only natural that RG3 is now garnering most of the attention in Washington. Griffin has made the Redskins respectable again, and his absence could totally put a wrench in their 2013 season.
It comes with the territory for a person who transcends his organization.
In the 60s, Vince Lombardi was the face of the Packers franchise, so much so, in fact, even today, it's hard not to talk about those championship teams without saying "Lombardi's Packers," with his fiery presence on the sidelines of Lambeau Field being the first image that pops into your head. Lombardi was such a larger than life figure, the Super Bowl trophy is named after him.
In the 80s, John Elway was the engine that drove the Broncos, and he so dominated franchise news, a local newspaper ran a section called "The Elway Watch," chronicling every piece of information, both on and off the field, about the ultra-talented quarterback.
More recently, Peyton Manning was the man in Indianapolis, as he gave the Colts credibility and Super Bowl status after many years in-which the franchise was a laughingstock and far removed from its proud Baltimore roots. Speaking of Manning, he was such a huge personality, it may not be foolish to say he cast an even bigger shadow than Johnny Unitas did when he was the face of the Colts franchise back in the 50s and 60s.
I can go on and on, listing people who have transcended their organizations (heck, even Tim Tebow's "mania" dominated the headlines in Denver for a short time), but when it comes to the Steelers franchise, I don't think I can ever recall a time when one single person so dominated the news that he rose above the organization as a whole.
It's certainly never been the owners. Oh sure, the Rooneys have always been an extremely influential entity when it comes to setting NFL policies, but they don't go out of their way to put themselves in the spotlight, at least not on the same level of a Jerry Jones in Dallas.
Despite the fact that he was largely responsible for turning the franchise around and launching the dynasty of the 70s, Hall of Fame head coach Chuck Noll didn't dominate the headlines and transcend his charges like Lombardi before him, or someone like Mike Ditka in the 80s, Bill Parcells in the 80s and 90s and Bill Belichick today with the Patriots. While Noll remains the only head coach to ever lead his team to four Super Bowl titles, even to this day, some national writers and non-Steelers fans mistakenly call him "Chuck Knox."
While more fiery and charismatic than his legendary predecessor, Bill Cowher certainly didn't have a Lombardi-like hold on his players, neither does Cowher's successor, current head coach Mike Tomlin.
It's never been any single player, either, despite the fact that there have been tons of great ones to choose from over the past four decades. From "Mean" Joe Greene, to Terry Bradshaw, to Troy Polamalu, to Ben Roethlisberger, any number of Steelers legends could have rose above the franchise and dominated the headlines, but that's never happened.
Speaking of Bradshaw. Even though he's the most decorated quarterback in franchise history, he never became the dominating presence in Pittsburgh like a Unitas in Baltimore, a Manning in Indianapolis, and there was never a "Bradshaw Watch" in any of the local newspapers during his playing days. Bradshaw was just one of the boys, and no more popular than someone like Greene or Franco Harris.
Same holds true today with Roethlisberger. Despite being on pace to break every team passing record, and despite being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, complete with two Super Bowl rings, Roethlisberger is probably no more a face of the current Steelers than Polamalu or Tomlin.
Much like any great institution, the Steelers have had many levels of excellence throughout the years, complete with dozens upon dozens of people who are responsible for the success and tradition.
No mania has ever truly transcended the Steelers as a whole, and it's hard to see where the success starts and where it ends.
That's a great organization.
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